Listening to Music When Training

When you do this job the one thing you have to be careful with is studies. There are hundreds of studies that all conflict each other. It doesn’t really matter what you want to argue, you can usually always find some research out there that confirms what you are saying. The trouble is knowing which ones to trust!


And if there is one thing that has been researched over and over again, it is whether music serves as a help or a hindrance to us when we train. Purists will argue that music is a distraction that limits our ability to achieve our goals. The conflicting argument is that in fact this distraction is exactly what we need because it lessens our awareness of exactly how much we are doing.

Here are some of the arguments for listening to music when you train:

  • Without even knowing it your effort levels are increased, especially when listening to fast-paced music. The theory being that the tempo of the music is directly linked to your exertion levels.
  • You can get ‘in the zone’! Let’s be honest, who can’t get pumped up after listening to the Rocky IV soundtrack? Certain songs are thought to trigger certain memories, which can act as incredibly valuable motivation.
  • As humans, when we listen to music we generally want to move. Once you hear a beat that you like the natural reaction is to start dancing. Surely if you can harness this desire to move, it can be channelled into doing particular forms of exercise?
  • Just as we know exercising makes us happier, so does music. Generally if we listen to music that has a beat we like then our mood should improve. It’s difficult to listen to a song you like and not feel happy.

But as with every argument for, there is always one against:

  • Breathing is a non-voluntary action. That being said, we know there are different types of breathing, e.g. abdominal breathing and shallow breathing. When training you should try and breath abdominally (from your belly, not your chest) to ensure you are getting the most efficient delivery of oxygen to the muscles. Listening to music offers a distraction, which can make it difficult to concentrate on breathing abdominally.
  • Especially when you are running, external sounds can play a vital role in our success. Listening to foot contact with the road can tell us whether or not our running style is effective. Often people don’t limit their contact with the running surface and waste valuable energy. If you have your headphones in when you run then you can’t possibly expect to assess your own running style.
  • I have discussed before about the value of training with a partner. Listening to music is quite unsociable and doesn’t encourage others to converse with you. Of course a training partner isn’t essential but having your iPod in will mean that you can’t ever really give it a go.

I guess a lot of it comes own to whether you enjoy what you are doing. If you like the exercise that you are doing then you don’t really need a distraction from it. If you can’t get along with your training schedule then the first thing I would suggest would be to change it! Failing that, listening to music can provide a distraction that helps you get through your rigorous program. Beginners also seem to find it useful. Again it seems to be about getting the motivation to work as hard as you possibly can.

At the end of the day if you think you work better when you are listening to music then stick with it! Just make sure you are listening to the right music. I can’t imagine getting pumped up to many of Adele’s songs for example. Think about the tempo, genre and lyrics when choosing your music, they are all important. Finally, if you are going to listen to music, it is best to stick to a compilation of similar songs. That way you are more likely to work consistently throughout.


Ollie Lawrence
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